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Girl in a jacket

T.G.I.S. was a game changer in 90s youth TV

The 90s was a memorable era that marked the advent of teen-oriented shows, with the debut of T.G.I.S. (Thank God It’s Sabado), a series that gave us a glimpse into what it was like to be a teenager in Manila back then. The story unfolds in a Quezon City subdivision where character Joaquin “Wacks” Torres III (played by Bobby Andrews) moves in not knowing that he will be living next-door to former girlfriend and (and future fiancée), Maria Patrice “Peachy” Real (Angelu de Leon). As fate would have it, they rekindled their friendship and eventually gave their love a second chance.

The cast of T.G.I.S.–Onemig Bondoc, Raven Villanueva, Bobby Andrews, Angelu De Leon, Michael Flores, Red Sternberg

Other original casts within the T.G.I.S universe included Wack’s son Lucho (Juancho Trivino) who leads their so-called Team Guwapo a clique of heartthrobs studying in the fictional West Ridge High School. Other artists whose acting careers were highlighted during the course of the series were Michael Flores (as Mickey Ledesma), Kim delos Santos (as Tere Gonzaga), Rica Peralejo (as Mitch Ferrer), Onemig Bondoc (Jose Mari Rodriguez), Ciara Sotto (as Rain Abrera), Dingdong Dantes (as Inaki Torres), Antonette Taus (as Bianca de Jesus), Sunshine Dizon, Polo Ravales, and Ann Curtis (as Emily), among many others.

The Teenage show that opened the floodgates

TGIS premiered in GMA 7 on August 12, 1995 and concluded in November 1999 with 233 hit episodes and several citations, including Best Teen-Oriented Show at the Catholic Mass media Awards, Best Youth-Oriented Show at the 11th PMPC Star Awards for Television, and Best Drama Show Finalist at the New York TV Festival. Its Crossword Puzzle OBB was awarded Bronze at the Japan TV Festival. In 1998, TGIS was declared as Best Youth-Oriented Show, while its TGI-Xmas episode was named the Best TV Winner, both at the PMPC Star Awards.

Because of TGIS, 4:00pm every Saturday back then has never been the same since. Once Paul Westerberg’s Dyslexic Heart opens with “na na na na…”, all teenagers immediately huddled in front of the TV sets, giggling and giddy, and made themselves part of these barkada (posse) in the series. Teenage viewers identified with their favorite characters, imbibed their expressions, and even followed their then trendy get-ups (white socks, baggy pants and loosely tucked tees for boys, and hanging blouses paired with high-cut boots for the lasses). Some of the viewers even look for lessons and strategies on how to deal with their turbulent teenage years and followed how these artists handle every obstacle that came their way. Viewers even mimicked the cast’s favorite parting gesture at the end of each episode, and they would do that with their own friends too: “Group hug!!!”

The TV show soared and became a phenomenal hit that it spawned a second generation T.G.I.S., a spinoff movie in 1997 (by Viva Films and GMA Films), and a sequel entitled Growing Up, which aired from 1997 until 1999. It also paved the way for other youth-oriented show like Gimik (which later became G-mik), Tabing Ilog, and Berks—a validation of something that has been very successful. In 2012, another T.G.I.S. spinoff called Teen Gen where Andrews and de Leon reenacted their roles as Wacks and Peachy, was launched featuring GMA 7’s newest batch of young stars.

How a humble Saturday TV show changed the game and some lives

In 1995, there wasn’t a single teen audience on television’s afternoon timeslot as perhaps some teenagers during those times were either sleeping, are over at their friends’ houses or enrolled in some dance, music, or art lessons. So when GMA planned to produce a youth-oriented series on an afternoon non-primetime hours, they knew that the challenge was not only about creating an engaging show, relatable with the real teenage lifestyle, but also about chasing the target audience.

T.G.I.S.’s title was coined from the iconic expression Thank God It’s Friday, but the producers and writers replaced it with Sabado (for Saturday). While some were already in the entertainment industry, or part of other popular shows like That’s Entertainment, not everyone in the cast had prior experience, thus everything was an experiment that later became a template for other similar shows. The plot was simple and inherent in every teenager’s life way back, particularly about a clique that share the same community, went to the same school and they usually gather together in someone’s house and share stories of life, love, heartaches, family problems, strict parents, school stress, to deeper issues like drugs, alcohol, losing a parent, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and a lot of other things that are perennial in this day and age, proving that T.G.I.S. wasn’t merely a bubblegum-type of a teenage TV show.

During those times when internet wasn’t still on-trend, the cast admitted to receiving lots of letters and fan mails from not only teenagers who thanked the how for helping them cope with youth problems; but also from parents who were grateful because they understood their kids more because of the show.

Two and a half decades later

T.G.I.S. celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020 and several members of the now defunct series virtually got together to mark the milestone. Several social media posts were done to thank GMA Network, Viva Films, and GMA Heart of Asia which airs old T.G.I.S. episode. De Leon even wrote on her social media: “Happy 25th anniversary, TGIS! Sa mga nagmahal, nagmamahal at bago lang kaming minamahal, maraming salamat at ginawa niyo kaming parte ng buhay niyo.” (To all who loved us, who continue to love us, and those who just loved us, thank you for making us part of your life.) Michael Flores even shared the BTS look of their recent Zoom Party Reunion. In Flores post: “Happy 25th anniversary, mga Migs! Salamat @heartofasia2003 at binuhay nyo ulit ang barkada na nagsimula ng youth-oriented show on Philippine television since 1995! Sa lahat po ng supporters namin mula noon hanggang ngayon, at sa mga kabataan na patuloy na tumatangkilik sa programa namin, Maraming Salamat po. Mabuhay ang TGIS!” (Thank you, Heart of Asia, for reviving the barkada that started the youth-oriented show in the Philippines since 1995! To all our supporters from then, till now, and to all the young who continue to support our show, thank you very much. Long live T.G.I.S.).

Apart from the massive impact they had on the young people of the 90s, the cast has a lot to be thankful about because T.G.I.S. launched the careers of the then budding artists. At its very core, T.G.I.S. celebrates friendships that defy time and how young people then navigated their lives as they mature and face the changes that through the years. Clearly, the show’s legacy hasn’t been forgotten, and 25 years later, the cast may be living different individual lives now but the friendship and bond they share, only got stronger. If there would be a T.G.I.S. comeback, no one knows for sure. Until then, let’s do this single signature gesture that assures us we will hopefully meet again: “Group hug!!!

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